Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tuesday #Review - Thief's Cunning by Sarah Ahiers #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Assassin's Heart # 2
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Publisher: HaperTeen
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Dark Fantasy

The companion novel to Assassin’s Heart—a riveting fantasy that Printz Award-winning author Laura Ruby said “will keep you turning the pages all night long”—Thief’s Cunning picks up eighteen years later and follows Allegra Saldana as she uncovers the secrets about the line of killers she descends from.

Allegra Saldana has always had to look over her shoulder. As the niece of the infamous assassin Lea Saldana, Allegra is used to hiding from people who want her dead. Once the strongest clipper family in the Kingdom of Lovero, the Saldanas—or what’s left of them—are now the most hunted. Their number one enemy is the Da Vias, whose thirst for retaliation is almost two decades in the making.

At least that’s what Lea has told Allegra her whole life, but lately Allegra’s been feeling like things are being kept from her—including her parents’ identity. So when Allegra finally learns the truth—I’m a Da Via—her world crumbles. Feeling betrayed by the people she trusted the most, Allegra turns to Nev, a Traveler boy whose presence makes her feel alive in ways she’s only dreamed of. But getting caught up in Nev’s world has consequences Allegra never saw coming.

In this dark and enthralling fantasy that fans of Sarah Maas and Leigh Bardugo will devour, one girl must decide whether she’s destined to pay for the wrongs of her family’s past…or if the future is hers for the taking.

Thief's Cunning is the second installment in Sarah Ahiers' Assassin Heart series. Some publications are calling this a companion novel. Assassin’s Heart was set in the Kingdom of Lovero, where paid assassination is legal if you belong to one of the nine chosen Families. Thief’s Cunning, which takes place nearly twenty years after Assassin's Heart, introduces a completely new part of this world—Mornia—an expansive, secluded desert where Travelers abound.

Fans of the first book will be happy to know that Lea and Alessio, the main characters in Assassin’s Heart, are still very much a part of this story. Bridging the gap with these familiar faces will keep established fans interested while hooking the new ones. It also features some new characters and a Romeo and Juliet like romance that has as many twists and turns as the Sonoma Raceway in California. Thief's Cunning features 18-year old Allegra Saldana as its main protagonist. 

If you remember anything about the first installment, you should know that Allegra is the baby who was spirited away from the Da Via home by Lea Saldana in her desire for revenge against the family that took everything away from her. Allegra lives in a world where assassinations owe their fealty to the goddess known as Safraella. They are basically untouchable. Lea became Safraella's chosen one in the previous installment which now comes with the desire that peace between families can be achieved in her lifetime. In spite of her nearly 20 year feud with the Di Via family.

Meanwhile, Allegra wants answers to the questions that keep being ignored about her parents. This is where Oleander (Lea) Saldana and Alessio (Les) Saldana hold all the answers. What really happened 18 years ago? Who is Allegra's real mother and father? What really happened to her father, and who killed him? 18 years ago, the hated Da Via's set fire to Lea's family home and killed everyone. The only survivors were Lea, Emile, the son of her brother, Les, and Marcello. But, for one moment in time, Lea made a fateful choice to take the baby whose blood is both Saldana and Da Via. 

Allegra now feels as though she is being kept in a cage. In fact, this is a running story line that refuses to go away. It hangs over the entire story like a cyst that just refuses to go away. I, like other readers, felt as though it took awhile to come around to liking Allegra. As a reader, I can understand the frustration of being kept in the dark about who your parents were, and why those who raised her, and kept her safe from the other families, were so reluctant to reveal such a touchy subject from the past. 

Lea & Les spent 18 years of their lives life protecting Allegra from being discovered & killed by other families, only to be kicked in the teeth for all they did for her. Certainly Allegra has the right to be angry and frustrated, but to be so quick to anger and point the finger and blame at her family for their reluctance to reveal the dark truth was just sad. Let's get a few points out of the way. Allegra is not Lea. Don't bother comparing the characters. Allegra is not a badass like Lea. Lea has faced more adversity and challenges than Allegra could even dream about. 

Lea is still a badass in this installment. In fact, Lea's scenes were probably the most entertaining because you just knew things were going to get interesting. Meanwhile, Allegra is stubborn, rebellious, and a thirst for the unknown. Her willingness to wade into the unknown nearly costs people their lives. Even though Allegra got under my skin due to her over-exuberance and often times stupid mistakes, she really should have been told the truth about her heritage, especially after given an opportunity to travel to Lovero where she encounters almost more than she can handle. 

Here things really get interesting. She meets a traveler boy named Nev, falls for him, gets kidnapped, and is taken to the land called Mornia where she learns about another culture and the Gods that they follow. She also ends up meeting her "real" mother and has to make a choice. Does she stay with Nev? Does she leave with her "mother" and return to her home? Does she return with Lea and hope they can work out their issues? Would I say that this is a satisfying ending? Hmmm, maybe. Does there need to be another installment? Nope. Would I say that the romance takes too much of the story line? Probably. 

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